- Paperback: 220 pages
- Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing Company; First Edition edition (May 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1890132063
- ISBN-13: 978-1890132064
- Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #895,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hammer. Nail. Wood.: The Complusion to Build Paperback – May, 1998
Glynn has written an exceptional book here, not strictly a "how-to" book and not precisely a novel, but a beautifully, movingly written account of his "compulsion to build" and his experiences as a result of it. This is the quintessential "learning-by-doing" story, giving the reader not only the nuts and bolts of building a house, but pulling one in to a compellingly written, sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious, but always readable story of one man's obsession to build a house. --Mark Hetts
From Publishers Weekly
The impulse behind this book is good: a meditation by an inexperienced but enthusiastic narrator on building his own house. But while it is more intimate than Tracy Kidder's House, the inevitable plumb line for house books, it oversteps intimacy into preciosity. For Glynn (The Building), building is less a workaday experience and more a metaphor that allows esoteric descriptions of how carpentry is like sex, or rambling pseudo-spiritual musings in which thinking about how to repair a drain pipe turns into "I do not remember making that repair, though I must have. I do remember something else though. The sky opened. I saw something. I saw how miraculous everything was. Everything just was." What Glynn lacks in building skills and knowledge, he makes up for in determination, and that is evident here. But in his effort to make the particular universal, his human characters become less memorable than his nails. Perhaps Glynn wants readers to relate better to an adjustable wrench with square jaws and a wooden handle framed in iron than to a local Korean War vet who skids down roads on his head and winds up stabbed by a young girl who pets bees. The book's ending brings little closure, neither for the house (which continues as Glynn's ongoing project) nor for the people who live in and around it.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
This is a seemingly simple but actually multi-layered book, on its surface about the building of a small house that Glynn and his wife planned on "cheap land," that they bought. The land appealed to him despite the fact that he knew "I didn't really want to live on a farm, I wanted to live on the idea of a farm." And he really does build a house, and on a tight budget. He hires helpers, and is part of a little team. "Years ago I realized I wasn't much good at making money. I don't know why it took me so long to realize this." But he knows what it is that he loves, and one of those things is the work of carpentry.
Glynn's book is divided into neat, short chapters. Some are almost meditative. He thinks deeply about a lot of things. He writes about himself, and several people and places who in the course of this project become important to him. There's a lot about wood, tools, and building, and somehow it is all very interesting, whether or not you liked Woodshop class.
You learn about as much about the characters as you might know had you lived around there for twenty or thirty years. One of Glynn's incredible abilities is that he never tells too much about a person. It works well in this book. Whittled-to-the-bone declarative sentences reveal deep inner lives, complex and layered thinking, real emotion. It's a guide to run-down things, to parts of the northeast US that don't show up in the guidebooks, to persistence, to the value of things that might not have a price tag, or might be had for free if one knows where to look or how to ask - and a meditation, really, on nature, work, creativity, human (and canine, come to think of it) oddness and will. Glynn would seem to be a man who without any self-consciousness is, in fact, in tune with his surroundings and his fellow man - and can teach us a lot about love and acceptance.
A great read, I have bought copies to give away, and you definitely do not need an interest in carpentry to enjoy it.
Being an organic process, house building is by extension, if not definition, messy. It's messy in terms in terms of the mud and materials, the dust and the destruction so necessary a part of construction. It is messy because of the muck that comes from creating a home out of a dizzying whirl of creative, financial, and family dynamics. It's messy because to truly build one's own home piece by piece means getting one's hands dirty.
Thomas Glynn's book "Hammer. Nail. Wood: The Compulsion to Build" is not really it about the "nuts and bolts" of the building process, there is very little how-to knowledge imparted here. Glynn focuses instead on the nuts of a different sort required to build one's own home. What doesn't scare you about Glynn's unusual book just might serve to inspire you.
In short: A worth read. Interesesting word construction.
But this book is only marginally about tools and wood and carpentry. The short chapters document the building of a house in passing, true, but they also tell the stories of Donald and Eldon, a pair of brothers whose farms neighbored Glynn's; Harlow, who shot cows when he didn't take his medicine; and numerous other local people and places.
In passing, you do learn a bit about timber framing, woodworking tools and other construction lore, but it's really the story of Glynn and the town he picked to build his house in. And it's very good.